Monday, March 25, 2013

Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger: Choosing The United Methodist Today

My favorite Methodist Episcopal Bishop is G. Bromley Oxnam. He was raised by a coal mining and church planting father, and a mother who was a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. As the family moved across the American West, Thomas Oxnam left a new Methodist Church building in each city. Mary read the Bible to Bromley daily, and spoke regularly about her temperance work.  Bromley would embody this mix of church planting and strong commitment to his belief throughout his life.

Bromley Oxnam was a man who stood up for his convictions. He started a church that served new immigrants to America in Los Angeles, joined labor unions on the picket line, and traveled to Russia during communism. Bromley believed that a forty-hour work week and end to child labor never would have come without church leadership.  Serving as President of the World Council of Churches he pushed for assistance in international health crises and wealth disparity. Bromley pushed every organization he served to challenge systemic social inequality. Bromley believed that we should serve God on our feet, rather than on our knees.

Bromley believed that actions rooted in his faith in Christ could change the world. He was someone who authentically lived out his beliefs in God, and for our world everyday.  When his political solidarity with poor and working class people got him labeled a communist, Oxnam never wavered in his faith.  He would stand before the House Of Un-American Activities Committees to challenge allegations that his work for social causes was not a sign of communism but a deep faith in Jesus Christ.   

Bromley Oxnam is one saint among many who have demonstrated a life driven by the desire to mirror Christ’s actions each day.  The United Methodist Church today continues to be full of passionate, world-changing people.  Today our risk-takers are missionaries serving around the world or young people entering our seminaries. We are made up of committed volunteers who join UMCOR at a disaster site, and help start food pantries in local churches. Faithful people who hold lobby meetings with congress people at the state and national level.  Courageous United Methodist who wage protests against unjust wars, unjust wages, or unjust exclusion of people to citizenship or church membership. People, who work to end poverty, provide health care for all, struggle to end environmental degradation, work to welcome all people- black, white, gay, straight, women, men, US citizen, undocumented people, republican or democrat- into the life of our church.

Through a history of prophetic stances in our Book of Resolutions and our Social Principles, United Methodists seeks to be active disciples in our church and world.  Our denomination continues a legacy of people who believe that God is not done with our world yet.  I choose to be a part of that hopeful and prophetic witness in our broken world.


Rachel Birkhan-Rommelfanger is a young adult seeking ordination through the Northern Illinois conference and has served at all levels of the global UMC. Rachel has participated in a variety of churches that were either on campus, multicultural, reconciling, large or small in Chicago, DC and Tennessee. She is currently the campus minister at the University of Maryland.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for keeping our heritage fresh and alive. One of my favorite quotes, by Jonas Salk, is this: "Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

    Bromley Oxnam was a good ancestor.

    May we become good ancestors, too.

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